Album of the Week: Expert in a Dying Field by The Beths


Album: Expert in a Dying Field
Artist: The Beths
Release Date: September 16, 2022
Label: Carpark, Rough Trade, Ivy League
Favorite Tracks:

  • Knees Deep
  • Silence is Golden
  • Best Left
  • When You Know You Know
  • 2am

Thoughts: New Zealand’s The Beths continue to impress with perfect pop punk pieces about love, anguish, and regret from the pen and voice of songwriter/lead vocalist Elizabeth Stokes.

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week:  2022

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Song of the Week: “Sharevari” by Aidan Noell & Nancy Whang


 

Aidan Noell & Nancy Whang – “Sharevari”

Aidan Noell of Nation of Language partners with Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem on this cover of a track first released in 1981 by A Number of Names. The proto-techno sound with hinds of Giorgio Moroder’s production for Donna Summer helped originate the Detroit techno scene.

Song of the Week 2022

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Silent Movie Day Review: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)


 

Title: Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
Release Date: 23 September 1926
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Production Company: Comenius-Film GmbH | Milestone Films
Summary/Review:

In honor of National Silent Movie Day, I watched the oldest surviving animated feature film. Director Lotte Reiniger invented a technique of silhouette animation using illuminated cutouts animated frame by frame.  The style is a bit mindblowing and I can imagine that it was the type of thing that might have been big as a midnight stoner movie in the 1970s.  On the other, the style is similar to shadow puppets going back to antiquity, so maybe it wasn’t so unusual for audiences in 1926.  The film illustrates stories adapted from One Thousand and One Nights.  It’s quite mesmerizing to watch and worth checking out for its historical importance as well as the intricate details.

Rating: ****

 

Favorite Movies of All Time: 60-51


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101

60

Title: Hamilton 
Director: Thomas Kail
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Phillipa Soo
Year: 2020
When did I first watch this movie?: July 4, 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This is kind of a cheat, but since I’m unlikely to ever make a All Time Favorite Musical Theater list, it’s a worthy inclusion here.  Besides, the direction of the camerawork does a great job of introducing the filmic to this staged performance.


59

Title: Camelot 
Director: Marty Callner
Cast: Richard Harris, Meg Bussert, Richard Muenz, Barrie Ingham, and Thor Fields
Year:1982
When did I first watch this movie?: mid-80s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Speaking of stage musicals on film,  this HBO production introduced me to Camelot, Richard Harris, and a love of musical theater in general so it will always hold a place in my heart.


58

Title: Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Cast: Edwin Aldrin. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Charles Duke, and Bruce McCandless
Year: 2019
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Archival footage, including previously unreleased 70mm film, brings to life the daring adventure of humanity visiting another world for the first time.  I still need to see this on a big screen one day.


57

Title: Up 
Director: Pete Docter
Cast: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, and Bob Peterson
Year: 2009
When did I first watch this movie?: September 2010
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The Pixar formula of clever humor, stunning visuals, and tearjerking emotion at its peak.  And that’s just the first ten minutes.


56

Title: Roman Holiday
Director: William Wyler
Cast: Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn
Year:1953
When did I first watch this movie?: January 2003
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Hepburn’s Hollywood debut is a fun romp in the Eternal City tinged with the melancholy of an impossible love.


55

Title: The Secret of Kells 
Director: Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey
Cast: Evan McGuire, Brendan Gleeson, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally, Michael McGrath, Liam Hourican, Paul Tylak, and Paul Young
Year: 2009
When did I first watch this movie?: February 2011
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Tomm Moore and Cartoon Salon have made some of the most visually-inventive animated films of recent years drawing on the inspiration of Japanese anime and ancient Celtic art to illustrate stories rooted in Irish folklore.


54

Title  Harlan County, U.S.A. 
Director: Barbara Kopple
Cast: Documentary
Year: 1976
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: My grandfather and his family worked the coal mines of Pennsylvania, so I’ve always been drawn to the stories of miners and their frequently dangerous work. This documentary focuses on the 1973 Brookside Strike in Kentucky organized by miners against their exploitation by the Duke Power Company.


53

Title: The Wrong Trousers 
Director: Nick Park
Cast: Peter Sallis
Year: 1993
When did I first watch this movie?: 1993
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Peak Wallace & Gromit!


52

Title: The Big Short 
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt,  Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and Marisa Tomei
Year: 2015
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2016
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book about the  figures in the credit default swap market who caused the Great Recession should not make for an entertaining film, nor one that made me weep openly in the theater at its conclusion.


51

Title: Wolfwalkers
Director: Tomm Moore
Cast:Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Jon Kenny, John Morton,  and Maria Doyle Kennedy
Year: 2020
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The most recent installment in Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy” brings together the conquest of Ireland by the Commonwealth of England with the Irish legends of women who become wolves with a stunning visual flair.

Movie Review: The Double Life of Veronique (1991)


Title: La double vie de Véronique / Podwójne życie Weroniki
Release Date: 15 May 1991
Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Production Company: Sidéral Productions | Zespól Filmowy “X” | Norsk Film | Canal+
Summary/Review:

The Double Life of Veronique is not really a movie that can benefit from being summed up or explained, so I’ll try to keep this short.  In Krakow, Weronika (Irène Jacob) is a young and up-and-coming choral vocalist.  At one point she sees a French tourist taking photos of a protest who looks just like her.  Meanwhile, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, music teacher Véronique (Irène Jacob) feels grief for something she cannot explain. She soon finds herself in a mystery of receiving phone calls and packages from an inscrutable puppeteer/children’s book author, Alexandre Fabbri (Philippe Volter) that seems to connect to her existentialist crisis.

Like a lot of European art films, The Double Life of Veronique doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but is compelling in the manner of a half-remembered dream.  There are lots of shots of looking through doors and windows, reflected images, and inverted camera obscura effects for people who enjoy symbolism.  Alexandre is kind of creepy, but again, this is a French film, so I guess he’s supposed to be romantic.  Irène Jacob is terrifically expressive in her dual role and I think the film owes a lot of what works to her performance.  This is definitely a film about feelings rather than plot, and Jacob brings out those feelings.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Roma (2018)


Title: Roma
Release Date: 21 November 2018
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Production Company: Espectáculos Fílmicos El Coyúl | Pimienta Films | Participant Media | Esperanto Filmoj
Summary/Review:

Among contemporary directors, Alfonso Cuarón is the one most likely to make a completely different type of movie on each outing. Roma is a film inspired by Cuarón’s childhood memories and in that sense is a lot like Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and Fellini’s Amarcord, especially in its use of well-choreographed crowd scenes of family and community activity.

Set in 1970-71, the film is set in the home of a prosperous family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.  The main character is the family’s live-in maid/nanny Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young woman of indigenous ancestry. Cleo becomes pregnant early in the film but is abandoned by her lover Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero).  Meanwhile, the mother of the family, Sofía (Marina de Tavira) must deal with holding the family together when her husband leaves her for a younger woman. These twin stories are impressionistically set against family drama, celebratory gatherings, and the political violence of Luis Echeverría’s presidency.  The most significant scene of the latter involves the Corpus Christi Massacre, when government-trained paramilitaries murdered 120 student protestors, occuring while Cleo is shopping for a crib and then going into labor.

Filmed in crisp black & white, Roma is a visually-stunning movie that immerses the audience in early 1970s Mexico.  Like Yasujirō Ozu, Cuarón frequently employs mid- and long-range shots where the camera does not move while characters move in and out of frame.  He also constructs some impressive tracking shots that make you think “how did they do that?”  And yet, despite Aparicio’s fine performance, I feel like Cleo is always at a distance and we never get to know her very well.  Thus I don’t feel the strong emotions in the film’s climax that many other viewers did.  Centering the story on women, and particularly an indigenous woman, instead of a child proxy for Cuaron is admirable, but it also never quite connects for me.

I think this is a beautiful and admirable film, but I also can understand the criticisms that it whitewashes the inequality between Cleo and the family and that the technical brilliance overshadows the human heart.  Still, this one would be worth seeing again on a big screen if I ever get the chance.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week: Spirituals by Santigold


Album:  Spirituals
ArtistSantigold
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label:  Little Jerk Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • High Priestess
  • No Paradise
  • Ain’t Ready
  • Fall First

Thoughts: Genre-defying Santigold’s new release reimagines the African American folk tradition with synths, electric guitar, and her own ethereal vocals.  Like many recent releases, the music grew out of the pandemic and addresses the feelings of grief, loneliness, and rage of our times.  It’s a short album, 10 tracks in just over 30 minutes, but it packs a punch.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Album of the Week:  2022

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Song of the Week: “Right to Riot” by Hagop Tchaparian


Hagop Tchaparian – “Right to Riot”

British-Armenian producer Hagop Tchaparian creates a sonically-dense collage from field recordings of traditional folk musicians in Armenia and the Mediterranean region undergirded by heavy techno grooves.

 

Song of the Week 2022

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Movie Review: Babe (1995)


TitleBabe
Release Date: August 4, 1995
Director: Chris Noonan
Production Company: Kennedy Miller Productions
Summary/Review:

There must be kinder dispositions in far-off gentler lands.

For a gentle barnyard comedy about a piglet who learns to herd sheep, Babe goes to some dark places and can be quite subversive.  The movie begins in a factory farm and make no bones about pigs be raised without sunshine and separated from their mothers at a young age.  This is a family film, nonetheless, but one that doesn’t condescend to children or avoid situations and words that they may not initially understand. I was surprised that Babe was written and produced by George Miller, the creator of the Mad Max series, but upon this rewatch I realize that there’s a tenderness at the heart of the darkness of Babe that’s not all that different from Mad Max: Fury Road, despite Babe’s more idyllic setting.

Babe (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh and played by 46 different piglets and an animatronic created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) is the runt of the litter at a factory farm randomly chosen for a “Guess the Weight” contest at an agricultural fair.  Babe ends up on the farm of Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) presumably to be fattened for Christmas dinner.  But Babe forms a bond with the sheepdog Fly (voiced by Miriam Margolyes) who becomes his surrogate mother after her own puppies are adopted away.  As a result, Babe becomes a sheep-herding pig, and one who does his job with kindness rather than asserting authority. This talent is soon recognized by the quirky Farmer Hoggett.  Hijinks ensue.

The movie is beautifully filmed, soaking in the lush Australian landscape (albeit people have American accents and drive on the right side of the road, so this could be anywhere).  Credit must be given to Magda Szubanski as Arthur’s wife Esme Hoggett and Russi Taylor as Duchess, “the bad cat bearing a grudge,” for being the MVPs of dialogue deliver in limited screen time.  And if you can watch Cromwell’s delivery of the line “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” without weeping, you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

This is a classic movie that just seems to get better each time I watch it.

Rating: *****

Favorite Albums of All Time: 70-61


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

70

Artist: Various
Title: Hamilton: An American Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Alexander Hamilton
  • My Shot
  • The Story of Tonight
  • Right Hand Man
  • Helpless
  • Wait For It
  • Guns & Ships
  • Dear Theodosia
  • Cabinet Battle #1
  • The Room Where It Happened
  • One Last Time
  • It’s Quiet Uptown

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: I never thought too highly of Alexander Hamilton the person (I’m a bit of an Aaron Burr buff) but I was transfixed by this musical that combines Broadway musical traditions with hip hop with American history.  I especially like how Hamilton’s story is adapted to that of the immigrant striver relating the story to modern day Black and Latin American people who don’t often get to see people who look like themselves in American history.

Bonus Sounds: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights was adapted into an excellent movie with a great soundtrack.


69

Artist: Billy Bragg & Wilco
Title: Mermaid Avenue
Year:  1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Walt Whitman’s Niece
  • California Stars
  • Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key
  • Ingrid Bergman
  • Christ for President
  • I Guess I Planted
  • The Unwelcome Guest

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 90s

Thoughts:  Billy Bragg is a folk/punk musicians and leftist activist from England whose music I like but I still need to listen to more of.  Wilco are a band from Chicago beloved by NPR hipsters whose music never interested me much.  But when they came together to put lyrics written by Woody Guthrie to music, it was magic.

Bonus Sounds:  The next step is to listen to actual recordings by Woody Guthrie.  Smithsonian Folkways has you covered.

Speaking of Folkways…


68

Artist: Various
Title: Anthology of American Folk Music
Year: 1952
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The House Carpenter” (1930) – Clarence Ashley
  • “The Butcher’s Boy” (1928) – Buell Kazee
  • “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O” (1928) – Chubby Parker
  • “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man” (1930) – The Carter Family
  • “White House Blues” (1926) – Charlie Poole w/ North Carolina Ramblers
  • “Frankie” (1928) – Mississippi John Hurt
  • “When That Great Ship Went Down” (1927) – William and Versey Smith
  • Mississippi Boweavil Blues” (1929) – Charlie Patton (under the pseudonym “The Masked Marvel”)
  • “Sail Away Lady” (1926) – Uncle Bunt Stephens
  • “Wake Up Jacob” (1929) – Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers
  • “Indian War Whoop” (1928) – Floyd Ming and his Pep-Steppers
  • “Saut Crapaud” (1929) – Columbus Fruge
  • “Moonshiner’s Dance Part One” (1927) – Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Cafe Orchestra
  • “John the Revelator” (1930) – Blind Willie Johnson
  • “Bob Lee Junior Blues” (1927) – The Memphis Jug Band
  • “Poor Boy Blues” (1929) – Ramblin’ Thomas
  • “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (1928) – Blind Lemon Jefferson
  • “Way Down the Old Plank Road” (1926) – Uncle Dave Macon
  • “Fishing Blues” (1928) Henry Thomas
  • “Black Jack David” — Carter Family
  • “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” (1929) — Blind Alfred Reed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: When I first got an iPod, around 2005 or so, I listened to a history of Folkways Records which prompted me to get this collection

Thoughts:

Experimental filmmaker Harry Smith pulled together this anthology in 1952 with selections from his collection of old 78 rpm records and it ended up becoming a major influence of the Folk Revival of the 50s and 60s.  Smith’s temerity in calling it “Anthology” instead of “An Anthology” and subsequent popularity skewed the real history of American folk music.  Nevertheless, as a compilation of recorded music enjoyed by ordinary Americans from 1927 to 1932, it is an excellent time capsule.  Selections include folk songs with roots in England, Scotland, and Ireland still enjoyed by rural Americans, Black American folk music (including blues and gospel), and old time music from a time when country and bluegrass are emerging.

The Internet Archive has the entire collection available to stream, including a fourth collection of folk songs chosen by Harry Smith that didn’t get a release until 2000.

Bonus Sounds:

There’s a 112 songs here, you want more?


67

Artist: Fugazi
Title: 13 Songs
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Room
  • Bulldog Front
  • Bad Mouth
  • Burning
  • Give Me The Cure
  • Burning Too
  • Promises

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991, because everyone in my Freshman dorm seemed to have this album

Thoughts: Speaking of leftist activism in music, the Washington, D.C. post-hardcore band took the DIY ethos to the limits making their shows as accessible as possible to all their fans.  Their debut album (actually a compilation of tracks from previously released EPs) was highly influential on the sound of the burgeoning alternative rock explosion.

Bonus Sounds:

Ian MacKaye of Fugazi maintains an archive of live performance recordings available for fans to download.


66

Artist: Cry Cry Cry
Title: Cry Cry Cry
Year: 1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fall On Me
  • Cold Missouri Waters
  • The Kid
  • Shades of Gray
  • By Way of Sorrow

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1998

Thoughts: Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams united to form a folk supergroup, recording this one album of cover songs.  They also had a very successful tour and I managed to see them twice on that tour including their end of tour performance at Sanders Theatre just after New Year’s in 2000.

Bonus Sounds: Richard Shindell’s album Courier appeared earlier in this list, but my favorite Dar Williams’ albums are Mortal City (1996) and End of the  Summer (1997), and favorite Lucy Kaplansky album is Ten Year Night (1999).

Coincidentally, Cry Cry Cry was named after a song by …


65

Artist: Johnny Cash
Title: At Folsom Prison
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • I Still Miss Someone
  • 25 Minutes To Go
  • The Long Black Veil
  • Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart
  • Jackson
  • Green, Green Grass of Home”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: I came to this late  due to a general disinterest in country music, not knowing that Johnny Cash is really good country.  Not only was Cash a good musician, he was a good person when it came to following Christ’s teaching of visiting people in prison.  This album recorded in a prison contains songs about prison, by prisoners, and most importantly, to entertain prisoners. The enthusiastic response of the audience of imprisoned men complements the perfect performances of these songs by Cash along with June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three. You can feel the disappointment when the prisoners are dismissed at the end.

Bonus Sounds: Johnny Cash had a late career resurgence with the American Recordings series which included interpretations of songs by decidedly non-country artists such as Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”


64

Artist: The Beat
TitleI Just Can’t Stop It 
Year:1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mirror in the Bathroom
  • Twist & Crawl
  • The Tears of a Clown
  • Ranking Full Stop
  • Big Shot

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990s

Thoughts: Known as The English Beat in the USA, the band emerged from the  UK two-tone ska scene with a debut album that mixed ska with New Wave.  It was a new sound for a new decade and remains one of the best albums of the 80s.

Bonus Sounds:


63

Artist: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Title: Rabbit Fur Coat
Year: 2005
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rise Up With Fists!!
  • The Charging Sky
  • You Are What You Love
  • Rabbit Fur Coat
  • Handle With Care
  • Born Secular

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2005

Thoughts: A debut album for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley of sorts collaborating with Chandra and Leigh Watson, also making their debut.  The pop/alt-country sound with a gospel tinge contains impressive harmonies and thoughtful lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: Jenny Lewis has continued to release great music including 2014’s “Just One of the Guys.


62

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Title:The ArchAndroid
Year: 2010
Favorite Tracks:

  • Locked Inside
  • Cold War
  • Tightrope
  • Come Alive (War of the Roses)
  • 57821

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts:  Monáe’s first full-length album continues her on-going science fiction dystopia about a messiasiac android. Musically, it’s a tour de force jumping among genres from song to song and even within songs. Funk, soul, new wave, afrobeat, psychedelia, and even punk rock are in the mix.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Janelle Monáe to come in this list, but until then you can also read my Music Discovery on her work from 2016 or read her recently-released sci-fi story collection The Memory Librarian.


61

Artist: Adele
Title:21 
Year: 2011
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rolling in the Deep
  • Rumour Has It
  • Set Fire To The Rain
  • I’ll Be Waiting
  • Someone Like You

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2011

Thoughts: The first time I heard “Rolling in the Deep” it blew me away and I’ve been following Adele ever since (along with most of the rest of the world).  The weary wisdom of Adele’s voice belies her youthful age at the time it was recorded.

Bonus Sounds: Adele is still pretty young even though she’s now a veteran artists continuing to release great works like last year’s 30.